The world of adaptive outdoor recreation is ever-changing. Adaptive equipment is constantly evolving, the latest and greatest techniques are advancing, and more and more people are acknowledging and understanding the role that outdoor activity plays in any kind of mental or physical rehabilitation. In that vein, it’s important that adaptive recreational and educational organizations follow suit. The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC), a national leader in adaptive outdoor programs, understands the importance of constantly evolving to keep pace with the advancements taking place. Most recently, the 46-year-old nonprofit organization added the position of Operations Manager to the leadership team, knowing that having someone in this role would support BOEC’s ability to stay current and even ahead of the curve with programs and equipment.

Lydia North rafting the Colorado River

BOEC Operations Manager Lydia North enjoys some time on the water.

Having some fun during a BOEC course with brain injury participants

Lydia and some colleagues have a little fun on a BOEC course. She is in her fifth year as a member of the organization.

Enter 29-year-old Lydia North, a five-year veteran of the BOEC. Growing up in the cultural and economic center of the northern Sacramento Valley – Chico, California – Lydia always knew that she was going to end up in Colorado one way or another. No, it wasn’t the typical “come for the winter and stay for the summer” mantra that most people in the Colorado mountains adhere to. Instead, it was the exact opposite. She moved to Breckenridge for the summer as part of BOEC’s summer intern class of 2017 and over the years has learned to not only put up with the winter months but actually thrive during that time of the year.

After studying at two different junior colleges in Northern California, Lydia made the 2,000 mile-plus trek to Livingston, Alabama to study Special Education and play collegiate softball at the University of West Alabama. While northern Colorado and west Alabama could not be more different, she decided to stay on the East Coast – albeit moving up north – upon graduation to receive her Master’s Degree in Adapted Physical Education from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. While attending classes, she worked as a traveling caregiver for an individual with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), as a case manager for a program transitioning students to the workforce, and helped with accessibility needs at music festivals. It would seem that the stage was set for a career in the world of adaptive education.

Lydia smiles in her happy place atop a mountain

Lydia smiles her in happy place. On her days off, you can typically find her doing something outdoors.

Posing with some 2021-22 BOEC Interns

Lydia (left) and BOEC Interns are all smiles. She has spent time as an adaptive ski intstructor and ski office supervisor.

First, however, Lydia was required to complete a summer internship to complete her Master’s Degree program. Naturally, Colorado came a calling, along with BOEC’s world-renowned Internship Program. The magic of the mountains and outdoor culture must have taken hold on the Californian because after her internship was over, she decided to continue working with the BOEC at the Keystone Adaptive Center (KAC) as an adaptive ski instructor the following winter. She then continued to work for the Adaptive Ski & Snowboard and Summer Wilderness Programs for the next couple of years before filling the role of Ski Office Supervisor and now, as BOEC’s first year-round Operations Manager.

“I had worked with a wide range of people with various disabilities before I came to the BOEC, so this helped me understand that every person is an individual and has different preferences and desires,” says Lydia when asked about how her prior education and related experience prepared her for the BOEC. “I also felt like I understood that ‘adapting’ sometimes means being creative and making things up. There’s no cookie-cutter wrongs and rights in the adaptive world and I think this outlook has helped me be successful at the BOEC.”

Part of her job is taking groups out on adventures

Contemplating life in the San Rafael Swell. Lydia spent many summers working as a BOEC course director.

Enjoying some extreme whitewater

Enjoying some extreme whitewater.

While working as a raft guide with the BOEC during the summer months really “fills her heart,” Lydia realized the chance to hop on board full-time would allow her to utilize her logistical skills while helping to streamline and advance BOEC’s year-round programming to provide a better and more refined experience for its participants. Overseeing all logistical plans for courses, managing staff schedules and assignments, performing course supervision, and purchasing, maintaining, and integrating gear are some of the major responsibilities of this position. In short, she’s able to dive into juggling all the different facets of the year-round Wilderness Program.

“I like that I’m able to partake in a variety of things in my day-to-day responsibilities,” Lydia says. “One thing that has challenged me, however, is that completing tasks often takes much longer than I think it will. This is a new position, and with it comes some challenges. But, in the long run, I feel that this position will help keep BOEC on the front line of all things adaptive recreation.”

Lydia and her dog joy in the mountains

Lydia and her dog Joy explore the Colorado Mountains.

Selfie with Joy in the mountains

Lydia and Joy take the obligatory selfie on a hike in the mountains.

How is she making this happen in her first few months on the job? Lydia typically begins her day at the Wilderness Program Site – one of BOEC’s four locations – to take care of some administrative work before possibly helping to get morning courses off the ground or making a plan to transport equipment between the “Site” and BOEC’s Administration Headquarters & Logistics Center. There’s always a plethora of items that need to be fixed, restocked, or looked over to make sure they’re in decent condition for the next group. There’s always something to be done and Lydia cherishes being a part of what she calls a “special” environment.

“The word ‘impossible’ is not really in BOEC’s vocabulary,” she states. “That’s a very rare environment to be a part of. If I had to describe the BOEC in three words, it would be thrilling, possible, and wild.”

The title of Lydia’s hypothetical book of her life would be Sniffin’ Flowers with Joy. And while she still prefers the summers of sniffing flowers and taking part in multi-day programs where she gets to know BOEC’s participants much better than the typical single day lessons of the winter, she’s learned to thrive in the winter too. Her job description has her supporting ski office operations three days a week while managing winter Wilderness Program logistics and gear maintenance the other two days. But, she envisions some time where she can participate in her favorite winter project, teaching interns to ski.

“Yes, believe it or not, that’s a ‘project’ every year,” she says.

Nordic skiing

Lydia enjoys a sunny winter day of Nordic skiing.

Ski hiking

Lydia hikes to ski. Over her five years in Colorado, she's learned to love the winters.

Lydia’s friends and family describe her as a “delightfully open and kind human with a private and intriguing personal world.” Some may never know what goes on in the background of her mind, but on the outside, she enjoys spending time with her dog – aptly named Joy – backcountry skiing in the winter and trail running in the summer. As far as the future goes, she sees herself continuing to play outside and being curious about the world around her. But, one thing’s for certain, she wants to maintain her place in the adaptive world.

“I want to continue helping others and helping social constructs around people with disabilities,” she says.

In the meantime, Lydia, keep fine-tuning and advancing BOEC’s programs and logistical constructs into the future.